By Mike Stone
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon is looking to provide up to 100,000 body bags for use by civilian authorities as the coronavirus outbreak worsens in the United States with a high death toll expected in coming weeks.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested 100,000 such bags to the U.S. Department of Defense, a Pentagon official told Reuters on Wednesday.
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is working with the current contractor on additional capacity, the official said.
The initial delivery will come from DLA stocks as the contractor ramps up production, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The DLA does not yet have a specific delivery date request from FEMA, but the agency wants the bags as soon as they are ready.
Bloomberg had reported earlier that the Pentagon was looking at buying more body bags and that it will draw some initially from a stockpile of 50,000 that it maintains.
A FEMA spokesman cited by Bloomberg said that the agency was making “prudent” plans for future needs, which included preparations for “mortuary contingencies” from U.S. states.
The Troop Support unit of DLA is responsible for managing the Pentagon’s stockpile of the green nylon, 94-inch by 38-inch body bags, which are normally used in war zones.
The development comes as the United States is looking at an increasing number of deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, with Reuters’ tally showing more than 4,500 deaths and over 200,000 infections in the country.
President Donald Trump and his top healthcare advisers urged Americans to follow strict social distancing measures ahead of a “tough two weeks” that could see at least 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus.
(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington, Writing by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)